There was an interesting article on Top Gear tonight about a new hydrogen powered car that Honda has developed, but they glossed over the most important aspect of fuel cell technology, namely the huge amounts of energy required to generate pure hydrogen in the first place. It may be that hydrogen powered cars only emit water as waste but in order to generate the hydrogen in the first place, a vast amount of electricity is required – and that electricity will mostly be provided from fossil fuel based electricity generators. So while there are no emissions when the fuel is used, the emissions will be emitted when the fuel is produced.
It seems to me that the only way a hydrogen economy can be developed is by producing it from clean(er) energy sources, which at the moment is going to mean nuclear. In Britain, this means we are going to have to make a big investment in nuclear technology if we are going to reduce our reliance on petrol based fuels.
Now that British Energy is being sold off to the French, we are pretty much reliant on France for our nuclear investment programme, so it’s not even under our control any more.